Feeling Stressed? Five Reasons to Make Self-Care a Priority

by Kirby Bumpus, MPH
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Feeling Stressed? Five Reasons to Make Self-Care a Priority

So this October edition of Better Than Ever was going to be an article about snacking …  

Instead, with everything going on in the world over the past few months, I felt like it was a good  time to write about mental health and why it’s so important to take care of yourself.

And I’m not alone in this: There are people of all ages and backgrounds embracing the self-care “trend” over the past year. All you have to do is look on social media: At the time of this article, #SelfCare had been used more than 3.2 million times on Instagram.

Self-care care has never been more important than now. For the first time since the test was created in 2007, Americans broke the Psychologists’ Stress Record in a January 2017 survey. The devastating events in the world means there’s no shortage of reminders of things to be stressed about with stories everyday online about the most stressful places to live or work.

With stress everywhere we turn, self-care is the most fundamental way to cope. First, you must silence that nagging little five-letter word: guilt.


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Last month, I went to a half-day yoga retreat in Philly led by a friend of a friend. The instructor, Helanah, wore a shirt that read “Self-Care is Not Selfish, It’s Sacred.”

🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌🙌

Helanah’s T-shirt was a reminder of how often self-care gets plopped in the same bucket as self-indulgent pampering, but we need to reframe self-care as a practice that uncovers your healthiest, most productive self. By restoring yourself, you make yourself a better parent, partner, employee and citizen.

My primary self-care go-to is to sweat it out at the gym, whether working out solo, with a trainer or with a friend. There I’m able to combat stress with ball slams, kettlebell carries, the rowing machine and body-weight exercises. After taking time for myself I am immediately revitalized, with more clarity of thought and calm, which I bring to my personal and professional relationships.

Here’s why I self-care (and why you should, too):

1. SELF-CARE IMPROVES RELATIONSHIPS

First off, self-care improves what’s arguably your most important relationship: your relationship with you. Second, instead of being stressed, tired and drained, you can be more present in your relationships, romantic or otherwise. How many times have you been in the midst of an argument, only to realize you aren’t actually that upset about the situation that bothered you in the first place? Instead of letting stress wreak havoc on your relationships, take time for a five-minute meditation or deep breathing.

2. SELF-CARE IS A SYMBOL OF LOVE

One of my favorite quotes is from the poet, Rudy Francisco: “Perhaps we should love ourselves so fiercely that when others see us they know exactly how it should be done.” Show the world how much you love by lacing up your sneakers and going for a run. … Show yourself some love by making a nourishing meal at home or foam rolling before you go to bed. By putting time on your calendar for self-care (and sticking to it!), you’re investing in loving yourself so you can love others even better.

3. SELF-CARE HELPS PRODUCTIVITY AT WORK

When we take care of our health and well-being, the benefits are massive for productivity: reduced absenteeism and staff turnover in the workplace, a reduction in healthcare costs and ultimately, a happier workforce. So, taking care of yourself allows you to better contribute to society.

4. YOU CAN SELF-CARE ANYWHERE

There’s no need to venture off to a fancy retreat to practice self-care. Instead, take a three-hour timeout and de-stress at home with your phone on silent. If you have kids, enlist a friend or family member to help out, so you can truly reconnect with yourself. I’ve done everything from journaling on an airplane to meditation on a train with the Headspace app, to stretching on a towel on my hotel room floor.


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5. SELF-CARE DOESN’T HAVE TO COST A LOT (OR ANYTHING AT ALL)

Yes, you can shell out money for a gym membership, mani/pedi, massage or boot camp class (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), but you can also use other tactics to self-care. If you find yourself struggling to process a problem at work, take a five-minute break to try some breathing techniques or take a walk around the building.

So consider this: Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a reason to engage in some self-care, think about these tips. And in the meantime, I’d love to hear why self-care is important to you. How do you incorporate self-care into your routine? Post your comments below!


Better Than Ever

We all strive for wellness and to live better! Every month, this column will bring you advice on how to feel and perform Better Than Ever. Check out tips to improve various aspects of your health: from fitness, nutrition, sleep and recovery to everything in between. Have a topic you want to hear about? Feel free to reach out here (I’ll be checking the comments!) or on Twitter or Instagram. I look forward to hearing from you.


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  • Bennie Lee

    Totally agree. Haven’t felt this good in a long time. I don’t know why I am always quitting on taking care of myself. I mean I do but they’re just excuses to not do the work.

  • Erin May Bond

    I couldn’t agree more! I am always quitting also. I need to break this barrier! It is a vicious cycle for me I will do great one minute and then let life get in the way and I am smack dab right back at step 1 again. So frustrating.

  • disqus_IbIge0KdAQ

    You can only care for yourself when you don’t neglect others. If you care or do for yourself and say no to others, here comes the GUILT train ! Big time ! How dare so to be so selfish. I’ve heard it all. Take care of yourself. Dream on